In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, reporter Siobhan Gorman offered a striking little portrait of Jose A. Rodriguez, who, in 2005, as chief of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, ordered the destruction of those "hundreds of hours" of CIA videotapes of the…
Now, what do we want to call it? Gorman refers to "extreme techniques" of interrogation (putting the two words in quotes), then repeats the phrase a second time later in the piece without the quotes: "… [Rodriguez] took a careful approach to controversial practices such as renditions–sending detainees to countries that use more extreme interrogation methods…"). In this mini-portrait of Rodriguez, as painted by his colleagues, and of the disappeared videos, the word "torture" is never used, but don’t blame Gorman. As Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher pointed out recently, she’s hardly alone.
"One Associated Press article referred simply to ‘interrogation’ on the tapes, at one point putting ‘enhanced interrogation’ in quotes. Another AP article called it ‘harsh interrogation.’ Mark Mazzeti in The New York Times used ‘severe interrogation methods.’ Eric Lichtblau in the same paper chose the same phrase. David Johnston, in a Saturday article for [the] paper’s Web site, referred to ‘aggressive interrogations’ and ‘coercive techniques.’ Reuters, in its lead, relied on ‘severe interrogation techniques.’ Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick in The Washington Post on Saturday opted for ‘harsh interrogation tactics.’"
Whatever is on those tapes, we’ve come a long way, baby, since, in Medieval Times in Europe, waterboarding was crudely known as "the water torture."
In any case, Rodriguez, according to his colleagues, turns out to be for the little guy–or the little torturer, anyway. He supposedly destroyed those videos so that "lower-level officers would[n’t] take the fall" for the high-level ones who dished out the orders. But there’s a slight catch in the text. What if some higher-level ones might have been in danger of taking the fall as well?
Here’s Gorman’s money passage, just dropped into the middle of the piece without further explanation or discussion: "One former official said interrogators’ faces were visible on at least one video, as were those of more senior officers who happened to be visiting." Happened? Visiting? Keep in mind that we’re talking about CIA officials in a torture chamber, not tourists at a local landmark.
Then again, for background, Gorman offers this on Rodriguez: He is, she writes, "a product of what one former agency colleague called ‘the rough-and-tumble’ Latin American division" of the CIA from the 1980s. "Rough and tumble"? You won’t find out what that means from her column. For that, you need to read Greg Grandin’s recent piece, "Unholy Trinity, Death Squads, Disappearances, and Torture–from Latin America to Iraq." In our period, men like Rodriguez, under the leadership of George W. Bush, have essentially globalized those "rough and tumble" methods of the CIA’s Latin American division. As Grandin–whose superb book, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, nails those "rough-and-tumble" years–points out, they have turned the "unholy trinity" that the U.S. developed in Latin America into a global operation. "U.S.-funded and trained Central American security forces would disappear tens of thousands of citizens and execute hundreds of thousands more. When supporters of the ‘War on Terror’ advocated the exercise of the ‘Salvador Option,’ it was this slaughter they were talking about."